Chapter 5: Fish and Aquatic Animals

by Dr. Frank Waabu O'Brien, Aquidneck Indian Council

This short treatise stems from the research of the Massachusett-Narragansett Revival Program, a project for the reconstruction of the extinct American Indian languages of southeastern New England. Our intention is to make these works available to a wide audience. The present paper shows translations for about 130 names for fish and aquatic animals and related terms taken from Narragansett, Massachusett and related dialects. Not all species were recorded by the missionaries of Colonial New England. Occasionally vocabulary words are borrowed from the Pequot language, Wampano (Iron Thunderhorse, 2000) and a north Boston-Shore dialect when no extant terms were discovered or for purposes of comparison. Reconstruction of such words in Massachusett-Narragansett may be modeled on these terms from similar Algonquian languages. References are given below. One important document (Trumbulls’ Natick Dictionary) is available on the Internet as a PDF document (can view book as it is written). In addition, it has been brought to my attention recently that many Algonquian texts are now available (as ASCII files; not as originally written) at the following address: The Goddard & Bragdon work is important for linguistic theory.

The vocabulary listing is presented alphabetically as a table of three columns. On the left is the English language term being translated, as translated in the middle column (with language/dialect identified), and any useful comments on the right side (including etymology). The main contributing language is Massachusett (Eliot, Cotton and Trumbull references). The abbreviation Narr. refers to the Narragansett language as recorded by Roger Williams (1643). Pequot is a reference to the glossary of Prince and Speck (1904). The abbreviation “Wm. Wood” refers to the 275-word vocabulary compiled by William Wood in 1634. William Wood wrote an expository work of his 17th century experiences in the New World, entitled New Englands Prospect, which summarized his observations among the Massachusêuck (Massachusett Indians, “People of the Great Hills”). The character &c means “etc.” Notes in the COMMENT column are itemized by “bullets” when multiple Algonquian translations are listed; the order of the “bullets” in each column correspond.

Fish and Aquatic Animals

Fish (naumaùssuck)
and Aquatic Animals


(∞ = oo as in food)



kakadorôk (Wampano)

Not indigenous to RI or MA


· suggig (Wm. Wood)

“a bass”

bass, striped bass

· missúckeke

· missûckeke (Narr.)

· “large striped”


aquaundunt (Pequot)



sequanamâuquock (Narr.)

plural, “Early Summer [Spring] fish”

canoe (boat)

· mish∞n[3] (or) mushoan = any large canoe or dugout

· mishoòn = Indian canoe or dugout (Narr.) [see front cover]

· mishoonémese[4] = smaller mishoòn (Narr.)

· peenoon = small floater

· mishíttouwand = great canoe[5] (Narr.)

· peewàsu[6] = a little one (canoe) (Narr.)

· paugatemissaûnd = oak canoe (Narr.)

· kowwawwawând = pine canoe (Narr.)

· wompmissaûnd[7] = chestnut canoe (Narr.)

· wunnauanounuck[8] = a shallop[9] (Narr.)

· wunnauanounuckquèse = a small shallop, skiffe[10] (Narr.)

· kitônuck[11] = a ship (Narr.)

· kitónuckquese = small ship (Narr.)

· kunnósnep[12] (Narr) = anchor

· wútkunck[13] (Narr) = paddle, “his wood stick”



kikômkwa (Wampano)



arnamaga (Wampano)



  • poquaûhock (Narr.) (or) poquaûhog

  • sickìssuog[14] (Narr.)

  • suckis suacke (Wm. Wood)
  • common quahog; “closed hard shell”; this was shellfish from which the inner rim gave “purple wampum”
  • long black
  • “a clam”


  • anishămog
  • pauganaùnt (Narr.)
  • noei comquocke (Wm. Wood)
  • Plural, “smells badly [when not properly cured]”
  • Cod[15]
  • “ a codfish”
  • crab

    katawam ?

    Conjectured, reconstructed from a place name in Huden (p. 75)

    cunner[16] (chogsets)

    cachauxet (Pequot)

    “marked with spots or stripes”

    eel, eelpot

    mihtúckquashep[17] (Narr.)


    eel, larger eelpot

    kunnagqunneúteg[18] (Narr.)


     eels (plural)       

    · neeshauóg & neeshaûog (Narr.)

    · sassammaúquock (Narr.)

    · nquittéconnauog & nquittéconnaûog (Narr.)

    · “go in pairs”

    · “smooth, slippery, glossy”

    · “goes by self”

    fish [19]

    · namohs

    · namohsog

    · naumaùs (Narr.)

    · naumaùssuck (Narr.)

    · kehtahhannâmagquog

    · mogkom

    · mogkommâquog

    · peeamaug   (Pequot)

    · “water animal”

    · plural


    · plural

    · plural, “large fish of the ocean”

    · “great fish”

    · “great fishes”, plural

    · “little fish” ; plural adds   -suck

    fish fin



    fish hook and line



    fish, a fish-tail



    fish, a half fish



    fish, a sweet fat

    osacóntuck (Narr.)

    Like a haddock, and may also be the hake, pollack, whiting, or cusk fish.


    fish, a whole fish



    fish, bait

    onawangónnakaun (Narr.)


    fish, fresh fish[22]

    qunôsuog[23] (Narr.)


    fish, head of

    uppaquóntup (Narr.)    


    fish, small winterfish (plural)

    moamitteaúg (Narr.)

    “black fish”? smelt? minnow?

    fish, winterfish





    from “he fishes”

    fishers, fishermen[25]

    aumáchick & natuckqunnuwâchick[26] (Narr.)


    fishing hook

    hoquaún[27] (Narr.)


    fishing hook, large one

    maúmacocks (Narr.)


    fishing hook, little one

    peewâsicks[28] (Narr.)


    fishing line

    aûmanep (Narr.)


    fishing net

    · âshâp

    · ashòp[29] (Narr.)

    hemp or fishing net

    fishing-net sinker (stone)


    from “stone & net”


    apaginamas (Wampano)


    freshfish (wintertime)


    plural, “long ones”


    · tinógkukquas

    · kopiauss (or) kupýãs (Pequot)

    “jumping animal” or “croaker”

    frog, small, toad


    see “frog” with “small’ added

    haddock (pollock, whiting or cusk?)




    · ômmis ?

    · aumsûog & munnawhatteaûg[30] (Narr.)

    · “small fish”?

    · plural


    séqunnock[31] (Narr.)

    plural, “Spring fish”; shell chopped  up for fertilizer


    · aquidne[32]

    · munnóh

    · “floating, suspended mass”

    · from “dry place”


    · qunnamaug

    · qunnamáug (Narr.)

    · “long fish”, plural



  • ashaūnt
  • au so hau nouc hoc (Wm. Wood)
  • “he goes backwards” (how they crawl)
  • “ lobster”
  • long clam


    “he spittles or spits”, plural


    · wawwhunneke

    · wawwhunnekesûog (Narr.)

    · “he is fat”

    · “It is well-bodied”, plural

    menhaden (alewife)


    · aumaûog

    · munnawhatteaug

    ·  “alewife

    · “white or bony fish” (corn fertilizer, “he enriches soil”)



    “he scratches, tears”


    · chūnk∞

    · apwonnah

    · opponenaûhock[33]


    · “he roasts”

    · plural


    mômôramagwsek (Wampano)




    Plural, “ear shaped shell”; the neck of  shell gave “white wampum” beads





    quinnoza (Wampano)



    agorraweji (Wampano)



    tatackommaûog[35] (Narr.)

    plural, “he strikes and strikes”

    quahog (see clam)



    quahog, purple rim of




    kakadorôksiz (Wampano)


    salmon (plural)

    · mishquammaùog

    · mishquammaúquock[37] (Narr.)

    “red fish”

    sand dune, bank, sand




    kagadigen (Wampano)


    scuppaug (porgy)


    related to “large” or “red” [see front cover]


    magahaghe (Wampano)



    mattaquab (language?)

    Can’t locate source for this word; perhaps from Micmac or other northern Algonquian languages


    taut (Narr.)


    smelt (see “fish, small winterfish (plural”)




    askequttum (Wampano)


    snapping or sea turtle



    spring fish

    sequanamâuquock (Narr.)

    plural, “early summer fish” (bream?)10.0pt;


    kaúposh[39] (Narr.)


    torchlight fishing


    Wequai = light in Natick (Prince, 1907)



    “red”,  “turning back”



    “near water”;

    Wampanoag clan animal

    water (fishing places)

    · paumpágussit[41] = sea spirit

    · kehtoh  = ocean, “great  unending  thing”

    · wechêkum[42] = the sea, ocean (Narr.)

    · kítthan[43] = the sea, ocean (Narr.), from “extended”

    · nippe  = fresh (drinking)  water, from “sits still”

    · sepi  = river (usually long one like the Conneticut river)

    · nippissipog  = pond or small lake

    · massapog  = big lake, “large body of still water”

    · sepues = brook, stream or little river

    · aucùp (Narr.) = cove or creek

    · aucuppâwese (Narr.)= little cove or creek”















    water mocassin

    nipiiskok (Wampano)

    “fresh water” + “snake”


    · p∞tâop

    · pôtoppauog (Narr.)

    · “he blows” (“thar she blows!”)

    · plural


    Waskèke (Narr.)


    white fish ( bony fish)



    plural, “he enriches the earth”, a fish like a herring  and also used as fertilizer



    plural , “winter fish”

    [1] John Eliot translated the entire Bible into Natick dialect of the Massachusett (or Wampanoag) language.

    [2] a European freshwater cyprinid fish (Abramis brama); broadly : any of various related fishes 2 a : a porgy or related fish (family Sparidae) b : any of various freshwater sunfishes (Lepomis and related genera); especially : BLUEGILL (Merriam-Webster Dict.)

    [3] Root word is oon = “floater”.

    [4] Plural, Mishoonémesash.

    [5] Larger than mishoon? Some carried up to 40 men sometimes in a sea-fight.

    [6] “It is little”.

    [7] From chestnuts = “white-nut tree”.

    [8] In the words for “boat”  (shallop, skiff), we see a common root –ounuck, -onuck, meaning “vessel” in the sense of something which carries or transports; we get the word for “cradle board” (kóunuk) from this root.  Native peoples created these words when they saw the large ships of the Europeans.  They believed the Mayflower was an island with a large tree.

    [9] A small open boat used by the English propelled by oars or sails and used chiefly in shallow waters. (Merriam-Webster Dict.)

    [10] Any of various small boats used by the English; especially: a flat-bottomed rowboat. (Merriam-Webster Dict.)

    [11] "A great carrying tree,” probably like the Mayflower.

    [12] Word seems misspelled since we see root for “stone” (-sen-).

    [13] "His wood stick".

    [14] The “squirter, spittler”; imitative of spitting sound. A sweet shellfish loved by the Native peoples, but dug up by roaming English livestock (swine), the animal most hated by Indians for stealing their food.

    [15] The first that comes before the Spring.

    [16] A wrasse (Tautogolabrus adspersus) common along the northeastern U.S. and adjacent Canadian coast; any of a large family (Labridae) of elongate compressed usually brilliantly colored marine bony fishes that usually bury themselves in sand at night and include important food fishes as well as a number of popular aquarium fishes. (Merriam-Webster dict.)

    [17] “Tree-wood net”.

    [18] -qunne- = “long”;  -eg means “the thing that is”.

    [19] Look for the root for “fish” (-am- & -aum- & -om-) which implies fishing with a hook.

    [20] “It is half” or “a part” in general.

    [21] “It is large (the whole thing)” in general.

    [22] They were taken in winter through the fresh-water ice.  In Pequot, called quúnoose (long nose), the pickerel.

    [23] “They are long”.

    [24] “Frost fish”, “Tom Cod”,  which migrates to brooks from the seas.

    [25] Since verbs end in -chick, the usual suppositive mode is assumed, "They who fish; they who are fisherman".

    [26] Since verbs end in -chick, the usual suppositive mode is assumed, "They who fish; they who are fisherman".

    [27] Root hoq- means “hook-shaped”.

    [28] Small things in general  (basket, fish, &c.)

    [29] Word also used for “flax” & “spider web”. Perhaps general name for vegetable fiber used to make rope, nets, etc., made from Indian Hemp (fibrous plants); also used a fish sinker called assinab (“stone net”).

    [30] Literally “they enrich the soil” (used as fish fertilizer for corn, etc., a practice which they taught to the English, one of the many contributions of the First Americans to awaunagussuck on this land).

    [31] “Summer long shellfish”.

    [32] RI place name Aquidneck means “on the island” which show the stem Aquidn.

    [33] “Shell fish to roast”.

    [34] “Ear-shaped shell”  [for white wampum beads; the shell also called a “whelk”].

    [35] “He strikes and strikes the water”. The repetition of the first syllable tatackom (one porpoise) is a common feature in the Algonquian Indian languages, referred to as frequentative or reduplication.  It is a way of describing or emphasizing something that is going on repeatedly or habitually.  For example, momonchu (“he is always on the move”; “he is always moving”). Popowuttáhig (“drum”) is another example—emphasizing the repetition of the popow sound of a drum.

    [36] Sucki- = "dark-colored" (purple); -hock = "shell, external covering".  The dark purple wampum beads from this quahog shell were worth 3 to the English penny, or twice the value of the white beads.

    [37] A place where salmon were caught is called Misquamicut (“place of the red fish”),  Westerly, RI.  It is seen that little corruption exists in the place name (not a common occurrence).

    [38] A marine bony fish (Archosargus probatocephalus of the family Sparidae) of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the U.S. that has broad incisor teeth and is used for food (Merriam Webster Dict.)

    [39] Perhaps from “impenetrable back”.  These large fish were sometimes hunted at night by torchlight.

    [40] Trumbull seems to suggest this is animate, singular, but suffix –og suggests plural animate form.

    [41] From pummoh (in Natick dialect), an old word meaning “sea”.

    [42] Perhaps from a word used by coastal Indians meaning “it produces, gives“ fish.

    [43] "Great expanse”. Plural kittannash.

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